A Jetpack of a Different Color

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Renewal: Queer Sci-Fi’s Fourth Annual Flash Fiction Contest, September 2017

“His fuzzy blue hide had turned eerily white — almost crystalline.”

Wendy shifted the jetpack on her shoulders and knocked on the door to Flooffle’s quarters.  “Come on!  I want to hit the ammonia waves on New Jupiter before the lava moon freezes over!”

Flooffle didn’t answer, so the human girl went in, expecting to find her fuzzy six-legged friend struggling to get a jetpack settled onto his thorax.

Instead Flooffle crouched stock still on the center of the floor, his six legs folded together, and his head leaned forward.  His fuzzy blue hide had turned eerily white — almost crystalline.

“Are you okay?” Wendy asked, reaching toward her friend.  The way his body was curled forward, Flooffle looked like he was in pain.  Wendy touched his mid-left leg lightly, and it crumbled to dust.

Wendy cried out and fell backwards, losing her balance as the weight of her jetpack pulled her down.  Her foot flew forward — she didn’t feel an impact, but Flooffle’s body dissolved like dust particles in sunlight.

Her friend was gone.

“Ready to go?”  It was Flooffle’s voice, except higher and purer.

Wendy looked up to see a smooth-carapaced, six-legged alien twice Flooffle’s height and dark blue.  Not the same blue.  Flooffle’s fur had been a comfortable, faded shade.  This was a deep, gleaming midnight.

“Is that you, Flooffle?” Wendy asked, pulling herself together and getting up off the floor.  “What happened?”

“Ha! Did I scare you? It was time time to molt to my adult form.  Turns out I’m a queen not a drone!  Call me Fleia.”  Fleia turned to the side, displaying a pair of shimmering wings.  “I figured you’d need a jetpack to keep up with me.”

Wendy laughed.  “You look amazing, but you haven’t changed at all, you trickster.”

“Come on,” Fleia said, “we’ve got some atmo-surfing to do!”

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